The Bock’s Office: ‘War Dogs’ proves to be a misfire
We all have our own interpretation of The American Dream, as do the characters of “War Dogs.” Still, there has to be a happy medium between hocking bed sheets and driving a truck of guns through something called the Triangle of Death.
If you go…
“War Dogs,” rated R
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Running time: 114 minutes
Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas and Bradley Cooper
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
In 2005, the United States is engulfed in war in the Middle East, but for Miami twentysomething David Packouz (Miles Teller) the real battle is to find a job with decent pay so he can hold his head high.
When he gets back into touch with his childhood best friend, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), he may have found the line of work that he’s looking for — if he can put aside certain political convictions.
Efraim has made a killing in the world of gunrunning by buying firearms from less-than-reputable sources and selling them to the US government for use overseas. The shady but not necessarily illegal practice has provided well for him and he needs a new partner.
As the duo set to work to grow their business, which he calls AEY, David becomes increasingly concerned about the ethics of what they’re doing, especially when they find themselves in some horrible places in their pursuit of the almighty dollar.
Both Hill and Teller have a knack for playing people you wouldn’t think twice to spit on if you got to know them, and that’s certainly apparent here. If you thought you loathed Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” you’ll be rooting for his demise as Efraim, who of course has a poster of Tony Montana in his office and all the undeserved swagger of someone whose biggest claim to fame is being the toughest kid in Hebrew school.
At least he has some personality, no matter how repulsive. Teller’s performance is worth nothing more than a shrug as someone who wants to do the right thing and manages to be just as bad if not worse than his amoral associate.
Ana de Armas is used sparingly as David’s anti-war girlfriend, who takes surprisingly little convincing to get on board the gun train despite being deceived about what kind of business her significant other is involved.
Bradley Cooper makes quite the impression midway through the movie as Henry Girard, a soft-spoken arms dealer who just happens to be on the terror watchlist but welcomes new ventures with up-and-coming businesses with open arms.
Yep, everything is going to work out fine.
A Rolling Stone article entitled “Arms and the Dudes” provides the basis for the newest in an increasing number of detached, sardonic films about real events in the “Can you believe how dumb and dangerous some people are?” genre.
Director Todd Phillips takes a shot at a serious movie for the first time, which oddly enough features characters who would better fit in “The Hangover.” Like the recent “The Big Short,” there’s no shortage of holier-than-thou sentiments about how the way the world works is wrong and needs to be fixed, but there’s little insight as Philips and co-writers Stephen Chin and Jason Smilovic take aim at a moving target that’s beyond their grasp regarding Uncle Sam’s dealings with independent contractors.
Hill’s commanding presence aside —it’s up to you how annoying you find this wannabe Scarface’s laugh and reminiscences of middle school days — this isn’t something that should hinge on one person considering the global reach of Efraim and David’s short-lived empire and all who helped them on their way to the top.
“War Dogs” approaches a complex subject with a broad sensibility and just like the pair at its center, it doesn’t end well. If you want to get an idea of what’s at its core, all you need to do is watch Efraim’s response when he’s asked the meaning of AEY, a set of initials that stand for absolutely nothing.
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